Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hunger Banquet at Alvarado Elementary


Children are the future of the world--the values and habits taught to them not only reflect their future, but also our future for the overall well-being of the world. As leaders with the New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps, we recently had the pleasure of hosting a hunger banquet in Ms. Kali Beckman’s fifth grade class at Alvarado Elementary in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ms. Beckman attended our World Food Day dinner in October and felt an Oxfam Hunger Banquet would be a perfect activity to enhance their poverty and justice unit. Our job was simplified by the fact that the students were already well-versed on Oxfam when we arrived. 


After introductions we explained to the class that they represented the entire world. (One young man made us laugh when he announced he wanted to be Asia.) We instructed students to count off and sit or stand to practice fractions and show statistics in a meaningful way. For the first one, students counted off one through seven and all the sixes sat down to show how one in every seven people go to bed hungry. Next students visualized how 1 in 3 women can't read or write, 1 in 6 people don't have access to clean drinking water, and 1 in 2 people live on less than 2 US dollars a day.

When we started the Hunger Banquet the excitement was palpable. The students were thrilled to portray children from all over the world. Each student received their card at random and were asked to read it and introduce themselves to a neighbor. 


After, we had the lower class move to the floor, the middle class to the chairs, and the upper class to the banquet table. We mentioned that everyone drew their lots at random, just as we are born at random into a certain environment and income level.


We began the simulation by explaining what it looks like to live in each class, and how the majority of the people were on the floor. We went around asking how everyone felt and whether the distribution was fair. We then asked one student from the middle class to move to the lower class because his family's farm lost their crops due to drought and scorching temperatures. He looked worried, and the remaining middle class students expressed their fear of losing their status as well. This brought up the reality of how vulnerable the middle class can be and helped prompt the discussion of issues that negatively impact people such as medical bills, natural disasters, or unemployment. 

Next two children from the lower class moved up to middle class because they earned scholarships for working hard at home and getting good grades in school. They were delighted for the opportunity to move up, and the welcomed with smiles into the middle class. We pointed out that education is an extremely powerful tool to empowerment and moving up in income level and stability.

At that point, we distributed food. The middle class were servers who first gave the upper class bags with more mandarins, candy, and pretzels than they could possibly eat. Then they served themselves medium sized snack bags, and finally gave the low income group bags with one pretzel each.

Once they were eating their food we demonstrated food waste by asking the upper and middle class to throw some of their food into a bucket that represented a trash can. Everyone engaged in conversation about what wasting food means and the global impact. Some students admitted they were picky and threw away food at home, another felt indignant enough to exclaim that it wasn't fair the upper income group threw away food while they only received one pretzel. However, the discussion really heated up when we asked the students to decide how the "wasted" food in the bucket should be redistributed. Before students related to the characters they played and expressed their feelings, but everyone became much more invested in the discussion when they realized they were deciding their fate.

The arguments and suggestions mirrored those adults and politicians are proposing all over the world. After a lengthy discussion, the class agreed that the lower income students would be allowed to take food first followed by the middle class. The upper income level were not allowed to take more food, and some of the middle class decided to donate food to the lower class.

Last, they broke into groups and worked on projects to improve their school or neighborhood. We told the class how it was wonderful watching them problem-solve and explained the basics of organizing. We made a point that today they demonstrated what Oxfam's work is all about, especially the importance of asking people to discuss and decide what they want and how to get there, rather than imposing beliefs and solutions on others.

The day closed with everyone talking about what they will remember most. One boy was impressed that Oxfam teaches people about organizing and how to overcome the injustice of poverty. One of the girls said she will never forget that one in three women will never have the opportunity to attend school.

What I will never forget is the insight and awareness of Ms. Beckman's class, and what it really means that people all over the world stand on common ground.

Thank you to Ms. Kali Beckman, her wonderful fifth grade class, and to Brook Sinclair and the San Francisco Oxfam Action Corps for letting us adapt and pilot their classroom Hunger Banquet materials. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Happy Oxfam New Year!


By Kathy Chavez


January 31st 2014 will mark the Year of the Wood Horse, a year of great energy and power. The wood horse will want room to run, so dream big. Set goals worthy of a powerful steed and ride your way to success! What are your goals for this year? According to the USA.gov official web site, the top ten New Year’s resolutions for 2014 are:

1.               Lose Weight
2.               Volunteer
3.               Quit Smoking
4.               Get a Better Education
5.               Get a Better Job
6.               Save Money
7.               Get Fit
8.               Eat Healthy Food
9.               Manage Stress
10.           Manage Debt           

Follow Oxfam’s GROW Method to keep your New Year's resolutions and decrease world hunger. Tackle goal number one for most Americans by eating healthier and instituting Meatless Mondays. There's a common thread in all the "Best Diets" listed in U.S. News & World Reportless meat. Meat-reduced and whole foods programs are leading the way with the most well-balanced diet plans. Even eliminating meat for just one day a week greatly improves your overall health. 

The National Cancer Institute's study of 500,000 people found that those who ate 4 ounces of red meat or more daily were 30 percent more likely to die during a 10-year period than were those who consumed less. Eating processed meats also increased the risk of death from heart disease and other factors. Plus, feel a sense of history and patriotism while participating in Meatless Mondays. The idea originated in World War I when the U.S. Food Administration urged families to practice “Meatless Monday” and “Wheatless Wednesday” to do their part and aid the war effort. Recently the Meatless Monday movement has picked up steam, and become popular on a global scale

Volunteering is number two on the list, and if you're considering a positive change of pace, join Oxfam to meet this goal.  Even if you're more focused on the job hunt, remember that volunteering can build up your resume while expanding your horizons, helping to land the perfect job.  Look on www.oxfamamerica.org for volunteer opportunities and possibly some travel opportunities as well. 


Volunteering is also good for your mental and physical help, according to Harvard studies. Volunteering keeps people more connected, warding off loneliness and depression. There is also evidence suggesting that people who give their time to others may be rewarded with lower blood pressure, overall better health, and a longer life span.

Other GROW-friendly life changes can tackle most of the top ten goals. Get fit, burn calories, and save money by riding a bike or walking whenever possible. Eat healthy and support local farmers by eating fruits and vegetables that are in season. Incorporating a few simple energy and calorie saving habits into your lifestyle will benefit the planet and your overall health. It will also save money on gas and food, thereby helping to manage debt.

Have a healthy, happy, and galloping-good New Year from your Oxfam Action Corps! For more information contact us at nmoxfamactioncorps@gmail.com or go to www.oxfamamerica.org

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Leadership opportunity: Organize in New Mexico to end global hunger – join the Oxfam Action Corps!


Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization, invites you to play a leading role in the Oxfam Action Corps, an exciting grassroots effort to stand up to poverty, hunger, and injustice around the world – starting right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Oxfam Action Corps is a group of trained grassroots advocates in fifteen US cities who organize with other local volunteers in support of our GROW campaign for policies that will save lives, defend the rights of women and farmers, and protect communities worldwide from rising food prices and climate change.  It includes a free national advocacy and leadership training for select participants. You will gain leadership skills, have fun, and change the world! 
Brian Rawson, Senior Advisor for Oxfam with NM Organizers for 2012-13 & 2013-14 at last year's lobby day
Sign-up by February 14 to apply for Oxfam’s free four-day leadership training in Washington D.C. April 5-8, 2014.  With a combined 50 years experience in activism on global justice issues, Oxfam America staff has put together an anti-poverty leadership training and service program unlike any other.

"This is leadership in practice. You can't just read a book on leadership. You have to put it into practice." — Jill Mizell, Researcher, New York

 “Oxfam Action Corps has given me a ton of confidence… Gaining knowledge and being able to speak to people about the issues.”  Amy L., Business Operations Analyst, Des Moines 

"This has become one of the best parts of my life… I can't express enough how satisfying it is to be organizing with people who are just as committed and dependable and passionate. It is so great to have the support from the Oxfam America staff, and I've been really impressed by their accessibility, competency and friendliness." – Isaac E., Educator, New York City

We're looking for people with the ideas, energy, connections, and dedication to the cause to make it happen. You will gain hands-on experience with advocacy and organizing, and gain practical leadership skills that will serve you in future pursuits. You'll meet and organize alongside like-minded people in your city. And, best of all, you'll contribute in concrete ways to changing policies that can save lives and right the wrongs of poverty and injustice.


Sign up at www.oxfamactioncorps.org by February 14
PS – Thinking about joining the Action Corps, but want more info first? Click here for everything you'll need to know.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

To Festive, Eco-friendly, and Fun Holidays!


By Kathy Chavez

Are you down to the wire and looking for ideas to make your holiday or New Years festive, meaningful, and also environmentally friendly? Spend a few hours at home cleaning out your closets and drawers. That fancy old party dress might make the perfect gift for a creative child who enjoys dress up. The bracelet sitting in the drawer could become a family keepsake for a young or old relative. For the person that truly has everything, get them a goat, a chicken, or even some manure for a person in need from the Oxfam unwrapped online store. (It's not too late, you can still go and print out their downloadable card at check out!) And don't forget that your time can be the most valuable present you can give someone. Invite a friend to join you for shopping, and running errands may become a time-honored tradition.




If it's too much of a hassle to bake all your holiday treats, have a cookie exchange or invite friends over for a baking or tamale making party. If you want to throw a party and don’t have time to do it all then host a potluck or white elephant party. White elephant parties are a personal favorite because they provide a way to reuse and recycle those perfect items that could be better used elsewhere. Wrap packages in colorful dish towels, newspaper, or decorate brown paper bags with pictures from old calendars or magazines. Wildlife calendars and magazines are a hit with my family and friends.

My best Christmas memories are of making tamales with my mother while my sister decorated the tree. Our trees were live ones, since my dad planted them on our property. The oldest one is twenty five years old and over ten feet tall. However, if a live tree is hard to come by, try making one out recycled materials such as old ribbon, cardboard, gift cards, and greeting cards. Here are some other fun ideas for creative tree variations.

Wherever you may be this holiday season, we wish you joy, peace, and lots of great food!
--Your New Mexico Oxfamily :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Don't Forget to Love Your Leftovers After Thanksgiving (and always...)

By Kathy Chavez


The days are getting colder and the nights are longer, and many of us are getting ready to celebrate with friends and family. My favorite part of the holidays every year is eating and sharing my leftovers.


Growing up we cherished our food and would never throw any of it away. My mother taught us that wasting food was wrong with so many people in the world going hungry. My mother was right--food is too precious to waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency one is six Americans lacks a secure food supply and suffers from hunger. And as much as 40% of food in the U.S. goes uneaten. According to estimates we are throwing out $165 billion in wasted food every year. Just 15% of this wasted food would be enough to feed more than 25 million Americans every year.


If that's not reason enough to save food, think of all the great dishes you can make with leftovers. My favorite is the simple sandwich. Take some meat and place it between two slices of bread or biscuits. You can always add chile, stuffing, mashed potatoes or cranberry sauce. If you don’t eat meat you can make it with tofu or hummus. Other favorites are soup, tacos, and Shepherd's pie. One very easy dish that comes to mind is mashed potato pile up. Take mashed potatoes (either sweet or white) and put them in a bowl, add vegetables, meat, beans, gravy or chile and gently mix them. Voila!


We wish you a safe and happy winter season full of leftovers. My best advice is to always wash your hands before handling food and do your best not to waste anything. If you can't eat it all, send food home with friends, or invite them over for leftovers.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Urge Pepsi to Stop Land Grabs

By Carlos Navarro, from Bread New Mexico Blog:

New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps Volunteers Urge Pepsi to Stop Land Grabs

Jasmine McBeath, Amanda Dezan, Sr. Joan Brown, Kathy Chavez
Oxfam is in the midst of a sweet campaign, and the New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps volunteers are taking part in a big way. The campaign, entitled Behind the Brands, is about corporate social responsibility and fair treatment for farmers and landholders in countries around the world.

Sugarcane is an important example. "As global demand for sugar increases, so does the rush for land to grow it. Around the world poor farmers are being kicked off their land to grow sugar, leaving them hungry and homeless," said Oxfam.

That's why the organization is holding Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Associated British Foods and dozens of other companies accountable. And that's why local volunteers from New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps recently went to the local Pepsi facility to hold a yellow sign that said Caution: Ingredients May Cause Land Grabs on one side and has a Pepsi bottle on the back with the names of people  who signed a petition to Pepsi  The petitions were then delivered to people inside.

So how much difference does it make for a handful of volunteers in Albuquerque to deliver petitions to a small bottling plant?  Here's what Oxfam says: "Know that you are part of a larger campaign where 250,000 people have signed the petition to tell Coke, Pepsi and ABF to keep farmers on their land."

Coke has already agreed to work with Oxfam. "Yay!!!, says New Mexico Oxfam leader Jasmine McBeath, "so now we're putting the pressure on Pepsi!"

Beyond Sugarcane
 But this campaign is more than just about sugarcane, as corporations are depriving people around the world from many other resources.

 "In Pakistan, rural c ommunities say Nestlé is bottling and selling valuable groundwater near villages that can‟t afford clean water. In 2009, Kraft was accused of purchasing beef from Brazilian suppliers linked to cutting down trees in the Amazon rain forest in order to graze cattle.And today, Coca - Cola is facing allegations of child labor in its supply chain in the Philippines. Sadly, these charges are not anomalies. For more than 100 years, the world's most powerful food and beverage companies have relied on cheap land and labor to produce inexpensive products and huge profits. But these profits have often come at the cost of the environment and local communities around the world, and have contributed to a food system in crisis."  Oxfam tells you more in a briefing paper.  

How to Get Involved
Find out how prominent companies rate in their dealings with small farmers and rural communities. Oxfam 
"Use Facebook and Twitter to nudge your favorite brands. Contact the CEO personally and tell them what needs to change. We’ll be constantly updating the scorecard so you can see the impact you’re having."
In Albuquerque, contact Jasmine McBeath or Kathy Chavez if you want to link to local activities. (nmoxfamactioncorps@gmail.com).

Click here to find out how to connect with Oxfam Action Corps volunteers in other communities who are working on the Behind the Brands campaign or contact Oxfam America staff.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

NM Celebrates World Food Day by Standing with Farmers Here and Abroad

Another World Food Day has come and gone, and the NM Oxfam Action Corps was honored to join groups across the world working to end hunger. It’s inspiring to know we’re part of a global movement, with major events sponsored by Oxfam affiliates in over 16 countries. In Brazil, 10,000 signatures were delivered to Coca Cola, Pepsi, and ABF while in Spain there was an international meeting of women leaders on the right to food and land. Meanwhile, Mexico held a bike tour for food security, Japan hosted a dinner with celebrity chefs, and Nigeria launched a new song on the Maputo Declaration. Oxfam chapters and partners across the United States also participated by hosting 1,000 World Food Day Dinners.  

Like last year, the NM Oxfam Action Corps put on a community dinner to celebrate and discuss ways to make our food system more just. We partnered with six different nonprofits, received donations from almost twenty farms, and put a dozen volunteers to work in shifts from 10am to 10pm. The event was a community effort in every way, but above all I’d like to express my gratitude for the farmers from the Downtown Growers Market. We asked for leftover produce from the Saturday market to make the meal, and almost all the farmers present chipped in with whatever they could give. By noon my trunk was overflowing with produce and looked like an homage to fall with all the eggplant, squash, pumpkins, peppers, sweet potatoes, greens and tomatoes.

      When I arrived at the church with the last of the donations, the first volunteer shift was already hard at work. From the minute I walked into the building, I could sense the energy and warmth. Everyone was hard at work chopping, coring, stirring, and yet smiling. Even though I’ve worked with Kathy for over a year now, I’m still in awe of her ability to create dishes without a recipe, delegate tasks with ease, and keep everyone engaged and having a good time.


The energy and enthusiasm was contagious, and still at full force when our dinner guests arrived.  With over 75 attendees, the room was at capacity. In attendance were farmers, nonprofit leaders, students, retirees, and families, all adding their diverse voices to the discussion. It was very gratifying to see everyone enjoying the food and we couldn't have asked for better speakers.


Cecilia Rosacker from Cecilia’s Organics spoke first about her experience growing up on a farm and making do with what they had. She then shared stories about passing traditions down to her children, as she now operates her own farm. In addition to farming, Ms. Rosacker directs the Rio Grande Agricultural Land Trust. The land trust is comprised of farmers that help protect New Mexico's natural resources and preserve working farms, ranches, wildlife habitat, and open space. A leader in the farming community, Ms. Rosacker shared about the struggles with zoning and the fight to preserve farmers’ land in New Mexico. She asked people to join the cause, and presented her case with a compelling mix of humor, warmth, and resolve.

Henry Rael, Executive Director of Valle Encantado, picked up where Ms. Rosacker left off by saying he had a completely different experience growing up. As he explained it, he grew up “a product of the broken food system.” However, as an adult, he considered the countless empty lots with broken glass and trash in his neighborhood and began to wonder about ways to rejuvenate the land.  With that idea, Valle Encantado was born, a community organization the promotes sustainable development in the South Valley. A grant provided tools, training, and farming instruction to empower locals to become farmers. To make the business profitable, they partnered with other farms in the area to form the Agricultura Network. Mr. Rael explained how one farm couldn't produce enough for restaurants or schools, but together they made deals such as supplying all the lettuce to Albuquerque Public Schools. Mr. Rael was also a compelling and inspiring speaker, and I left wanting to know more.    


From protecting working farms to reinvigorating previous farmland, it was inspiring to hear how people from opposite backgrounds are working towards the same mission from different angles. Their stories from New Mexico also related well to the global scene where farmers are being unjustly forced from their land. Kathy and I explained how land grabs are land deals that often force farmers from their land, deals that happen without the free, prior, and informed consent of communities.

Attendees learned that Oxfam's research revealed how Coke, Pepsi, and Associated British Foods are sourcing from sugar companies that 'grab land.' In addition to evicting farmers from their homes, the majority of foreign investors grow crops for export instead of feeding local communities. This is a big concern since two thirds of these agricultural deals occur in countries with serious hunger problems.


At the end of the dinner, we asked people to take action here in New Mexico. Recommendations included shopping at the Growers Market and places that source local, following the GROW Method, and supporting causes and organizations like Valle Encantado and the Rio Grande Agricultural Land Trust that are moving our food system in the right direction. We also stressed the importance of supporting farmers worldwide. People were inspired to take action right then and there by signing the petition, posing for photos with our Stop Land Grabs Sign, and adding their voice to the cause through social media.  (Want to help? Add your name to the petition here. 250,000 have already signed and in the few weeks since our dinner Coke has agreed to change their policies!) Everyone left with a full stomach and a greater understanding of how our actions can support farmers here and abroad.


   

I didn't know it was possible to top last year's dinner, but this year's event went above and beyond. I couldn't have asked for a better night, and have countless people to thank. I owe a great deal to so many people and groups, but I’d like to especially recognize Kathy Chavez, who took charge in the kitchen and was a fantastic coordinator and chef. 

By Jasmine McBeath




THANK YOU!

Donors

Amyo Farms
Bee’s Honey
Brown Family Farm
Bosque Baking Company
Chispas Farm
Erda Gardens
Granja Para Mañana
Harvest Gifts
Los Jardines de Moktezuma
Macias Farm
Magos Farm
Montoya Farms
Red Tractor Farm
St. Thomas of Canterbury Church
Sunflower Sprouts
Tortilleria Cuauhtemoc
Valle Encantado
Wagners Farm
Vida Verde


Collaborators

Bread for the World
Community Bricolage
Food Corps
Foodology
Nourish International
Oxfam Action Corps
Valle Encantado


Community Chef

Kathy Chavez


Guest Speakers

Cecilia Rosacker
Henry Rael


Organizers

Kathy Chavez
Jasmine McBeath

Volunteers

Ashton
Kendall
Kim
Luis
Margo
Natalie
Pat
Paulina
Pauline
Rochelle
Russell
Ryan
Sonia
Tyler